Immigrants still facing issues using INIS online booking system

Plans to replace system delayed as users pay third parties to secure appointments

The online booking system was  introduced in 2016 to alleviate long overnight queues outside the immigration office on Burgh Quay  in Dublin 2

The online booking system was introduced in 2016 to alleviate long overnight queues outside the immigration office on Burgh Quay in Dublin 2

 

Foreign nationals looking to secure appointments at the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) in Dublin are still facing difficulties making online bookings.

The news comes as the Department of Justice admitted that while a plan to replace the booking system had been announced a year ago, this had yet to happen.

The Irish Times revealed last year that internet bots were being used by opportunists to block book appointments which are then sold through social media and phone apps to immigrants for up to €50.

A set of software fixes were introduced in mid-September 2018 to prevent abuse of the system. Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan told deputies Joan Burton and Catherine Martin in response to parliamentary questions last week, that these fixes had been successful in preventing block booking. However, he added he “was aware that some third-party agents continue to book individual appointments with information supplied to them by customers.”

“My department strongly advises our customers not to provide sensitive personal data to these unregulated agents,” Mr Flanagan said.

System replacement

Deputies were told that tendering for a replacement booking system, which would prevent block booking appointments by third parties, is due to commence shortly.

The online booking system was was introduced in 2016 to alleviate long overnight queues outside the immigration office on Burgh Quay in Dublin. The website allows applicants to sign up, free of charge, 10 weeks in advance of the appointment

A spokesman for the Department of Justice confirmed that a tender to replace the current system is expected to be advertised in the new year, more than 12 months after being first announced.

He said the reason for the delay was due to a need “to review the tender requirement and factor in the very large increase in demand for appointments”.

The INIS was established in 2005 to provide a one-stop-shop for asylum, immigration, citizenship and visa services.

It has seen increased demand for appointments over the last year with the office currently registering more than 500 people every day. Overall, it has recorded some 100,000 registrations in the year-to-date versus 71,000 for the whole of 2018.

Mr Flanagan said the office was opening every weekend at present in an effort to meet demand.

Surprise

An employee of a multinational based in Ireland who did not wish to be named, told The Irish Times she had been surprised at how difficult it had been securing an appointment with the INIS.

“I talked with some of my friends in Dublin and learned they had all experienced similar issues and realised that to get an appointment it’s only going to happen if you pay someone. It took about 48 hours and then the (unofficial) site was able to get me an appointment, which after weeks of refreshing the official page every day was worth it just for the peace of mind,” she said.

“The site is definitely not part of the Government, but was helpful and since I couldn’t get a registration appointment through the actual immigration channels, it was necessary. If I hadn’t had other friends using sites like this one I would question if this was legitimate or not, but everyone I’ve spoken to has ultimately used this page or a similar one to get their registration appointments,” she added.